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Photograph by Sarah Phelan

Finance Reform with a... Smile: Ted Lempert has a vision for populist fundraising and a hell of an overbite.


Choice Beef

DUBYA devoted most of his State of the Union address to peddling his war on terror, but did anyone else notice how his comment that key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year was met with ... applause?

It's a reaction Rep. U.S. Sam Farr knows will delight his constituency in Santa Cruz, and one that he says supports his claims that Bush will have a hard time selling a re-enactment of the unpopular act to Congress. (You can bet further vindication comes from the federal ruling this week that found parts of the act unconstitutional, but that's another story.)

Farr was game to dissect the president's speech when Nüz caught up to him later in the week, even feigning surprise that Bush would use the occasion to kick off his campaign. (Hey, it's only nine months until the election, not that Nüz is counting.)

"Bush drew a line in the sand as a conservative," said Farr. "But where was the beef?"

Farr also found it "kinda ironic" that while Bush talked a lot about supporting choices--of religion, and in health care--he failed to mention women's choices and reproductive rights. Funny, the rest of us noticed that last week was also the 31st anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision--guess Bush forgot to mark it on his NASA calendar!

Farr also took note of Bush's right-wing posturing on the issue of gay marriage. "It's interesting that Bush mostly argues for allowing the marketplace to decide, yet wants to regulate the most private decisions in our lives," he said.

As for Bush's stated intention to increase support for community colleges and for the rehabilitation of inmates, Farr offered praise but added, "The problem is, he says something, then doesn't follow through with the money, much like he did around the No Child Left Behind Act."

As for endorsing Democratic presidential hopefuls, all Farr will say is that he'll lend his support "when it can help unify the party."

"The Dean phenomenon has been waking a lot of people up, and giving them the enthusiasm and energy to get reinvolved in politics. It's very encouraging," Farr added, noting how when Kerry started attacking Washington, his numbers went up. "Reporters say Dean is dead, but Iowa simply shows that all the Washington pundits and million-dollar think tanks were wrong. And the California primary, which has more delegates than rest of country, has yet to happen."

Mad Cowboy Disease

Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day, which, let's face it, is a bit redundant in California, where you don't need a groundhog to tell you there's going to be another six weeks of sunshine. All of which makes us want to enact cartoonist Keith Knight's suggestion to rename said occasion Dick Cheney Day. Yeah, wouldn't that be suh-weet if we could make Dick pop out of his infamous hole and tell us just how many more weeks we're gonna have to put up with Bush saying, "Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" and other truth-evading tongue twisters.

Nüz met the talented Mr. Knight at the Association of Alternative Newspapers conference in San Francisco, where we heard Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown remark that the media, which once dubbed him Gov. Moonbeam, "have nothing to talk about but Howard Dean's 'growl,' when really the question is, how did Dean emerge?"

Driving home afterward along Highway 1, Nüz was startled to see a cow tied by the foot to a phone pole at Waddell Creek beach, patiently staring towards the ocean in a bovine kind of way. What in cowdom was going on, we wondered, as traffic slowed to a halt and people with flashlights loomed out of the gathering gloom.

Turns out the cow we sighted was one of 10 lucky bovines that were safely recovered after 15 escaped during a ministampede that occurred as students from Cal Poly, which has 200 head of cattle in them there hills, were trying to pen them in. Sadly, the remaining five cows, which had disappeared into the brush, came back down onto the highway that night and were all killed in collisions. Nüz stayed up all night working on a "Why did the cow cross the road?" joke that ended with "Where's the beef?" but rest assured, you do not want to hear it.

Wish I Weren't Here

Ted Lempert believes campaign finance reform matters. And so do the supporters who joined him outside the county courthouse last week, as the Democratic contender in the race for the District 11 state Senate seat announced he'd reached Prop. 34's voluntary fundraising limit of $637,000 for the upcoming March primary.

Lempert explained that he did not start his campaign until 2003, out of respect for former Assemblymember Fred Keeley.

"I wish I wasn't here today," said Lempert. "This should be Fred Keeley's Senate seat, and I voted against the redistricting plan that took it from him. That said, I love it here."

So, what does this former assemblymember and San Mateo supe get in return for putting the kibosh on fundraising, aside from the moral high ground? Time to walk precincts and meet the community, says Lempert. Oh, yeah, and a ballot statement mailed to every voter in the district.

This latter privilege won't, however, be accorded to his fellow Democratic challenger, Palo Alto Assemblymember Joe Simitian. Asked for his reaction to Lempert's announcement that he's delighted to be done with fundraising, Simitian said, "I, too, am delighted that Ted has stopped raising money. The real difficulty is that under Prop. 34, a number of special-interest groups can still spend an unlimited amount of money in the final days of the campaign."

Ad Busted

You may have heard that CBS has refused to air the winning ad in MoveOn's Bush in 30 Seconds contest during the Super Bowl, citing a policy against advocacy advertising. In the meantime, they're accepting advertising from the White House's Office of National Drug Policy, which was responsible for last year's ad that linked casual drug use to terrorism. To watch the ad that CBS won't air during the Super Bowl, visit www.moveon.org/cbs/ad/.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the January 28-February 4, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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